Long Beach Chefs Are Working Towards a True Farm-to-Table Cuisine

Sarah Bennett of OC Weekly features Chef Art Gonzalez and his local sourcing of produce:

[Chef Art] Gonzalez (Panxa Cocina and Roe Restaurant) has a similar relationship with his farmer, Sasha Kanno, at Farm Lot 59. Months before the next planting season, the two will sit down and discuss his needs for the next year, settling on which cucumbers, peppers, herbs and oddities he might be able to use in his kitchen.
Last year, Gonzalez brought in a hard-to-find Peruvian black mint that he loves to use in ceviche; six plants now grow at Farm Lot 59 specifically for him.
“She wants to do those obscure things and get us what we want,” Gonzalez says. “I love it.”
Right now, Gonzalez is also buying fennel, carrots, kale, lavender, serrano peppers and honey from Kanno, who splits up her crop and sells to other local restaurants like Michael’s on Naples and Chianina.
In the summer, Kanno’s new tomato tunnel will be able to provide Gonzalez with enough heirloom tomatoes for his specialty: pico de gallo, which he sells about 100 gallons of per week. He estimates that about one-third of his produce comes from within Long Beach, with the remainder supplemented with personalized orders from the farmers-market-hunting Ingardia Brothers.
“I think [Long Beach’s urban farms] are really great for specialty items,” he says. “If you’re going to do a focused tomato salad or you’re working on a beautiful fish dish where part of it is an artichoke and you only need 20 heads a week. With a city like Long Beach, that’s where urban agriculture can be most helpful.”
Like Pretty, Gonzalez acknowledges that even though the amount of locavore produce available to restaurants is increasing, it’s still simply not feasible for even the most dedicated of farm-to-table chefs to survive on only what’s grown within city limits. But both enjoy the challenge of staying seasonal while working around what Mother Nature provides.
“That’s what I like — the challenge,” Gonzalez says. “Sometimes [Kanno] sends me stuff I’m not even expecting. It allows me to stay creative. It keeps me on my toes.”
Michael Kirkpatrick